Eastern Times Correspondent, Dhaka, 2 March: A Dhaka court has exempted BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia from personal appearance in the Niko graft case.
Judge Sheikh Hafizur Rahman of the Special Judge’s Court-9 of Dhaka passed the order on February 16, following a petition submitted by Khaleda’s lawyer Masud Ahmed Talukder.
Today, defence for Khaleda started hearing on charge framing in the case filed against her and eight others, Advocate Zia Uddin, a defence lawyer, told Our Correspondent.
Defence lawyer Advocate Zaynal Abedin Meshbah today represented Khaleda in the court in her absence.
During today’s hearing, Advocate Masud Ahmed Talukder cited different “flawed points” brought against Khaleda in the first information report (FIR) of the case.
As the defence could not complete the hearing on charge framing, the judge set March 18 for next hearing in the case.
Khaleda Zia, who is now out of jail following an executive order from the government, is unwell and cannot leave home due to Covid-19 pandemic, according to the defence lawyers.
Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) filed the case in December 2007, accusing Khaleda and several others of abusing power to award a gas exploration and extraction deal to Canadian company Niko when she was prime minister between 2001 and 2006.
The anti-graft body pressed charges against Khaleda and 10 others in May 2008. Two months later the High Court stayed the proceedings of the case.
On June 18 of 2015, the HC cleared the way for the trial proceedings to resume and ordered the BNP chief to surrender before the trial court within two months after a copy of the HC verdict reached it.
Former law minister Moudud Ahmed, former acting energy secretary Khandaker Shahidul Islam and Kashem Sharif, vice-president (South Asia) of Niko Resources Bangladesh Ltd, are also accused in the case.